TUMWATER – The Columbia River boys soccer team learned many lessons over this past COVID-disrupted year.
Perseverance, camaraderie and strength? Definitely.
But after a canceled 2020 season and shortened 2021 campaign, the Rapids are well aware that the thrills of high school soccer aren’t guaranteed.
That’s one reason why Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Tumwater in the 2A district championship match stung more than a typical defeat.
“More than anything, it’s to not take things for granted,” River coach Filly Afenegus said when recalling what his players took most from this season. “They know that more than anything. That’s why it meant so much to them and why they’re hurting right now.”
Saturday, Columbia River suffered its only loss in 11 matches this season. The Rapids had their shot at a fourth consecutive district title denied by a stingy Tumwater defense that only allowed four goals this year.
River got a breakthrough in the 11th minute when Logan Simmons scored on a rebound of Carver Taylor’s shot.
But Tumwater pulled even on Zack Schmidt’s goal 12 minutes before halftime.
The Thunderbirds (11-0-1) relied on a conservative defensive strategy in the second half. They got their big break with 17 minutes left when Schmidt’s corner kick went through goal-mouth traffic and snuck inside the far goalpost.
River mounted a handful of dangerous moments in the final minutes, but could not get a clear shot on goal.
“That’s a lot of how they played, bunker and counter,” Afenegus said of Tumwater. “When you’ve had three games in five days, it’s hard to break down teams that are bunkering in.”
Saturday marked the end of high school soccer for eight River seniors, whose legacy will be one of sustained success and perseverance through this past difficult year.
But for River returners, this past year offers a treasure trove of qualities to build upon.
Simmons, a junior, believes Saturday’s loss will motivate the Rapids next season.
“There’s a collective hurt throughout the team and I think no one wants to feel that again,” Simmons said. “We want to feel what they’re feeling. We’re going to work our butts off this offseason to get that.”
But before Columbia River began to move on, its coaches and players came together for one last group huddle on the Tumwater High School field.
“The great part about being on a team is that everyone knows how you feel right now,” Afenegus said. “We can walk through it together.”
TUMWATER 2, COLUMBIA RIVER 1
Goals (assists) – Logan Simmons (unassisted). Goalkeeper saves – Cameron Givvines 4.
Goals (assists) – Zack Schmidt (Sam Southworth), Schmidt (unassisted). Goalkeeper saves – A.J. Heichelbech 7.